ANCIENT clattering typewriters, staff hammering grimly away at their keyboards with cigarettes dangling from the corners of their mouths and a fog of smoke reminiscent of a London pea-souper.

This was the scene that greeted me on first setting foot into the South Wales Guardian newsroom as an impressionable 17-year-old on a September morning back in 1978.

There was Mike, a former reporter at The Sun who'd dropped out of Fleet Street to carve out what he (wrongly as it turned out) expected would be a far simpler life in the sticks.

Shirley, an extremely funny, chain-smoking hackette, who on more than one occasion effortlessly managed to drink me under the table.

And Lesley, the Afro-haired wise-cracking wife of an Army officer, who kept the office stocked with a plentiful supply of goats milk from her own herd – when we weren't seeking liquid refreshment of another kind, of course.

What would those hard-living Guardian reporters have made of their (relatively) clean-living counterparts of today?

Come to think of it, the two tribes would undoubtedly have bonded extremely well...

The inky paper itself also bore no resemblance to the sharp, colourful tabloid of 2015. Back then the Guardian was a rather ungainly broadsheet with smudged type that occasionally rendered it virtually unreadable.

Moreover, the ink would invariably come off all over the hapless reader's hands.

If this all seems a world away from modern journalism that's because it is. Housed in a red brick printworks outside, the printing press that brought each new edition into the world had probably changed very little since the times of Caxton.

And if the newsroom was the reporters' patch those printworks were a place where we hacks feared to tread. The printing unions were all-powerful and a blundering reporter could trigger a walk-out simply by innocently handling a piece of linotype – not that I ever recall such a thing happening, of course.

Not only was the paper bigger back them it also had a bigger staff. This enabled the Guardian to report literally everything that went on in its patch – it really did report every cough and spit.

Fast forward almost three decades and I again washed up on the shores of Ammanford, via and extremely long and circuitous route, and this ending up in the editor’s chair.

By now the printworks were long gone and a huge chunk of the workforce as well. Computers were long established - the paper was assembled in Newport and printed in Oxford.

And the internet, Facebook and Twitter were being seen as new ways of getting the Guardian stories out to a far bigger readership than that 1978 workforce could ever have imagined.